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Jul 7, 2014

A case for Barca's defence

Barcelona confirmed the signing of Claudio Bravo on Monday. He will battle Marc-Andre ter Stegen for the No. 1 shirt.

Goalkeepers have really come to the fore at this World Cup and on Monday, Barcelona presented one of the many players in that position to shine in Brazil: Chile international Claudio Bravo.

The 12 million-euro signing of a player who has impressed in La Liga over eight seasons with Real Sociedad comes after Marc-Andre ter Stegen's arrival following the departure of Victor Valdes.

- Video: Goalkeepers prove their worth at World Cup
- Corrigan: Bravo excited by Barca switch

The 22-year-old from Borussia Monchengladbach, who signed in May for a fee similar to Bravo's, was previously thought to be Barca's No. 1 for the near future. It was an open secret he would sign when it became clear that Valdes would not agree a new contract, but now the goalkeeping strategy has become clearer with the signing of Bravo.

And it is not dissimilar to the one that worked so well for Real Madrid last season: why have one top-class man to choose from when you can have two?

Iker Casillas and Diego Lopez pushed each other on a daily basis at Real since Jose Mourinho decided he wanted to make life less comfortable for Casillas as the side's first choice, and it looks like Bravo and ter Stegen have been brought in to play a similar role next season at the Camp Nou. With the top teams needing to compete at the highest level in all competitions there are enough games in a season to keep two goalkeepers satisfied. The expectation is that the Champions League every season will see the top teams competing in at least 14 games if they reach a semifinal.

Barca will also have added Spanish Cup games starting before the Christmas break. Last term, they played in nine games in that competition on their way to losing the final to that wonder goal from Gareth Bale. In Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti made the controversial decision early on to relegate crowd favourite Casillas to the cups while Lopez played in La Liga. The Italian never wavered once from that plan.

The main reason for that was both keepers were able to stay sharp enough to continue producing top-class performances throughout the season. If either had wobbled to a worrying degree he would have been quickly replaced by his rival.

Barcelona beat competition from a host of clubs to sign ter Stegen.

And that appears to be the thinking behind Barca's plan. The Monchengladbach-born player's youth naturally places a question mark over his ability to leave his home town and adapt quickly to La Liga. Meanwhile, his 31-year-old Chilean rival has been handed a four-year contract.

Bravo himself said on Monday: "Barca have not told me that I am coming as a reserve keeper; ter Stegen is obviously a quality keeper, otherwise he would not be at Barca. But I will feel very comfortable with the system. When I arrived at Real Sociedad I was unknown, now the same is happening here."

Bravo is perhaps underplaying his own ability with that final remark. He will feel -- as the more experienced of the two new arrivals -- favourite to start the season in the starting XI.

The club's sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, attempted to clarify the situation, and said: "Ter Stegen knew from the very beginning that another keeper of Bravo's level would be coming. All players that come to the club know they come to compete with the best; it is a characteristic of this club."

Barca were disrupted last term by the season-ending injury to Valdes, and while Jose Manuel Pinto was not directly to blame for any of the failures that were to follow, they must have been looking jealously at their big rival in the Bernabeu who had two world-class keepers to choose from.

Now it looks like they have followed the lead taken by their rivals, leaving nothing to chance next season.